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Volleyball Overlap Rules

By Kurt Johnson

The game of volleyball, in its common indoor version, is played with six players on the court at a time. Player positioning is one of the key rules of volleyball. The formal positions of the sport include setter, middle blocker, opposite hitter, outside hitter and libero, and each of these positions has a specific role on the court. In addition, the rules of volleyball have players rotate to each of six different court locations at the start of each point, which moves front-row players to the left or right of their normal spot and also sends players from front to back. Once a point begins, players can move to their more natural position, but if they overlap each other in their initial setup, it is a violation.

Player Positioning

In the game of volleyball, there are six locations on the court that are designated, three in the front row and three in the back row. The designations of player position and player location are very different. Before the ball is served, players need to be in the correct location; after it is served, they can move to their playing position during the flow of play. When a team wins a point that returns the honor of serving to its side of the net, its players must rotate one position. Players rotate throughout the match, so a middle blocker, for example, will spend just one-sixth of the match assigned to the middle front location on the court. The rest of the time, she will need to be aware of her location during the service to avoid an overlap penalty, and then move to the middle blocker spot once the ball is in play.

Row Position

There are two types of overlap violations in volleyball. The first is called a row position violation as it applies to players whose assigned starting position is on the same row. Row position is judged by the position of two players on the same row relative to each other and the sideline. The player in the center position on the front row is not allowed to have either of his feet closer to the left sideline than the player in the left front position. The row position overlap rules apply across both the front and back rows, as players must be aware of their position relative to the player to their left and/or right when the serve is delivered.

Back Row/Front Row

The second part of the overlap rules applies to the relationship between front row and back row players. Volleyball teams receive serve in a number of different formations, often putting extra players toward the back of the court. The key to this part of the overlap rules is the relative position between one player and the teammate assigned the location directly in front of or behind her. The center line that divides each team's half of the court is the measuring tool officials use to judge the back row/front row overlap. The player assigned the back row position cannot have a foot closer to the center line than either foot of the player assigned the position directly in front of her.

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